The sad reality of school life is that some kids will be bullied. However, it’s rare to learn that the person doing the bullying is actually a school-district employee.
In an incident that shocked both students and parents alike, school bus driver Mary Black, in Jerome, Idaho, was filmed harassing an 8th grader during the ride home. The reason? She was angry at the child for speaking Spanish.
“I don’t understand Spanish,” she shouted while pouring water on Miguel Martinez. “I’m not going to learn it. I live in America and it’s an English-speaking country. So if you want to speak to me, speak to me in English.”
The berating began after she accused Martinez of throwing a water bottle on the bus, which he denied.
“She tried to take his phone away,” student Brayan Alvarez, who filmed the incident, told a KTVB news reporter. “When she didn’t get to do that, she just grabbed the water bottle and started getting him wet.”
This is disturbing on many levels. An adult has no right to put their hands on a student. But on top of that, this xenophobic behavior is also completely out of line. What gives Black the right to tell him what language he can or cannot speak? For many students around this country, English may not be their first language. Even if it is, there is no law requiring it be the only language they speak. This child should be allowed to embrace both cultures and languages without being tormented or attacked.
Apparently, this wasn’t the first time Black banned students from speaking Spanish on her bus either. According to Juan Espino, the parent of another student who had been harassed by the driver in the past, Black would simply turn off the bus camera before berating others in the past. This time, however, she was unable to hide her behavior.
Espino says he had complained about her before to the bus company, but without any evidence, nothing was done. When he got a copy of Alvarez’s video, he posted it on Facebook for all parents, teachers and administrators to see.
Black has now been fired from her job, which is a relief to the kids and their parents, to be sure. Yet, the fear of something like this happening again in Idaho and other places most certainly lingers.
The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report on “The Trump Effect” earlier this year, in which it details how Trump's bigoted rhetoric on the campaign trail has affected schoolchildren. The Republican candidate's campaign has been producing "an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom," according to the study.
That should be a concern for parents all across the country.